Letter by MARYBETH DEVLIN
Copies: DOI, BLM National, CSU, BLM Oregon, USGS
July 30, 2018
Bureau of Land Management
Burns District Office (BDO)
28910 Highway 20 West
Hines, OR 97738
Attn: Project Lead
Short Title: Wild Horse Spay Feasibility Research
Full Title: Spay Feasibility and
On-Range Behavioral Outcomes Assessment and
Warm Springs Herd Management Area (HMA)
Population Management Plan
Document: Environmental Assessment (EA)
NEPA ID: DOI-BLM-ORWA-B050-2018-0016-EA
This letter responds to your solicitation of public comments regarding horrific Mengelian experimentation proposed to be done on wild Mustang mares. I submit my comments as an interested party in behalf of the Warm Springs wild horses of Oregon.
NEPA Project Summary Page
More than 100 defenseless mares, many of them pregnant, would be subjected to cruel procedures that would jeopardize their health, destroy their fertility, cause them to miscarry their unborn foals, and even cause their death.
Here You Come Again — Same Game, Different Players
Around this time two years ago, BLM tried to pull the same stunt — planning Mengelian experiments to sterilize wild horses. Back then, the partner-in-crime was Oregon State University. Now, in 2018, here you come again but with new accomplices — Colorado State University (CSU) and United States Geological Survey (USGS), the latter, like BLM, a bureau under the Department of the Interior.
This grotesque “research” would be carried out by CSU at the behest of corrupt BLM officials to exploit grant-funding that became available per BLM’s “overpopulation” fraud. BLM used the “overpopulation” ploy to secure funding from Congress for these sicko experiments. BLM-Oregon and BDO in particular have been at the forefront of the Big Lie. BLM entices cash-hungry universities with grant-money and offers to share funds with its sister-agency to buy their loyalty and silence their criticism. What institution would dare question BLM’s lies when current and future funding is on the line?
In 2016, BLM’s attempt to destroy wild horse herds via sterilization was soundly defeated. OSU lost not only the project and grant-money, but suffered a loss of prestige and goodwill. Associating with BLM brings disgrace. CSU and USGS would do well to back out of the proposed agreement now.
Sterilizations Predicated on BLM’s Fraudulent Claim of Overpopulation
The “overpopulation” of wild horses is a pernicious lie, a concocted “crisis”. The government doesn’t have a wild-horse problem — wild horses have a government problem.
Arbitrary Management Level (AML)
The maximum number of wild horses that BLM declares the Western range can sustain — 26,715 — is a political construct that was set for administrative convenience and political expediency. Per the 31,583,386 acres — 49,349 square miles — of dedicated wild-horse habitat across the Western states, the upper bound of the AML establishes a maximum stocking density of 1 wild horse per 1,182 acres — nearly 2 square miles.
Austere Management Level (AML)
However, BLM does not manage per the maximum but rather down to the minimum, that is, to the low bound of the AML — 16,310. Again per the 31,583,386 acres of dedicated wild-horse habitat, this austere management level corresponds to a stocking density of 1 wild horse per 1,936 acres — 3 square miles!
Sparsely Populated, Widely Dispersed
Obviously, BLM keeps wild horses few and far between. However, many herds are restricted even more severely. Here are examples of stocking densities that BLM deems “appropriate,” and down-to-which it “manages” these herds:
1 wild horse per 3,102 acres — 5 square miles — Antelope Complex — Nevada
1 wild horse per 4,381 acres — 7 square miles — Beatys Butte — Oregon
1 wild horse per 5,062 acres — 8 square miles — Paisley Desert — Oregon
1 wild horse per 5,062 acres — 8 square miles — Warm Springs — Oregon
1 wild horse per 6,606 acres — 10 square miles — Eagle herd — Nevada
1 wild horse per 9,591 acres — 15 square miles — Silver King herd — Nevada
Long Gestation — Delay in Beginning Reproduction — Alternate Year Foaling
Horses are a slow-growth species when it comes to reproduction. The gestation-period lasts an average of 11.2 months, and a mare produces just 1 foal. There is a delay of two or — usually — three years before fillies begin to produce foals (National Research Council 1980, citing Eberhardt et al. 1982, and Garrott and Taylor 1990). Further, there is evidence that wild mares tend to foal every other year, likely due to inadequate energy-reserves to sustain a pregnancy every year (NRC 1980).
The Birth Rate ≠ The Herd-Growth Rate
Generally, BLM has been misusing the birth rate as a proxy for the herd-growth rate. However, the birth rate and the herd-growth rate are two different measures. For a herd-growth rate to be valid, the birth rate must be reduced by the respective death rates for foals and for wild horses other-than-foals.
The birth rate among wild-horse herds not managed with contraceptives was found to average 17% to 20%; but within a year, between 32% and 50% of those foals vanish (McCort 1984, citing NRC 1980; and Gregg et al. 2016). Thus, the birth rate is just a temporary blip in the data.
Adult-Mortality Must Also Be Factored
Meanwhile, the mortality rate (extrapolated from the survival rate) for wild horses other-than-foals ranges from 3% to 20%, with a median of 11.5% (BLM Smoke Creek EA 2017, citing Wolfe 1980, Eberhardt et al. 1982, Garrott and Taylor 1990). That 11.5% can be deemed a reasonable estimate of adult mortality among free wild horses is supported by two statements, found in recent BLM environmental assessments regarding captive wild horses kept in long-term, off-range pastures (ORPs):
“Natural mortality of wild horses in ORP averages approximately 8% per year ….” and
“Wild horses residing on ORP facilities live longer, on the average, than wild horses residing on public rangelands ….”
Expected Annual Growth, per the Research, Even with Percentages Rounded to Favor Growth
Foaling rate: 17% to 20%. Midpoint: 18.5%. Rounded up: 20%
Foal-survival rate: 50% to 68%. Midpoint: 59.0%. Rounded up: 60%
Adult-mortality rate: 3% to 20%. Midpoint: 11.5%. Rounded down: 10%
For a hypothetical herd of 100 horses, we would calculate the high-normative growth-rate as follows:
60%[20%(100)] − 10%(100) = ?
60%(20) − 10 = ?
12 − 10 = 2 and … 2/100 = 2%
If we used NRC’s percentages — 17% foaling rate, 68% survive — the growth rate would still be 2%.
68%[17%(100)] − 10%(100) = ?
68%(17) − 10 = ?
12 − 10 = 2 and … 2/100 = 2%
If we used Gregg et al.’s percentages — 20% foaling rate, 50% survive — the growth rate would be zero.
50%[20%(100)] − 10%(100) = ?
50%(20) − 10 = ?
10 − 10 = 0 and … 0/100 = 0%
BLM Deceptively Uses the Birth Rate as the Population-Growth Rate
BLM officially cites “20%” as the average population-growth rate; but 20% is actually the high end of the unadjusted birth rate. Please note that 20% is 10 times the expected growth rate. And that, dear readers, is how BLM starts to paint the false picture of an rapidly-increasing population.
Warm Springs — BLM’s Invalid Year-to-Year Population-Growth Data
Because the subject EA targets the Warm Springs horses for major surgical interventions per an alleged overpopulation, let’s see what BLM claimed were the herd’s annual growth rates in recent years. The chart below tracks BLM’s reported population-growth figures for the Warm Springs herd as of March 1 of each year since 2010, the year that will serve as the base, the starting point. Note that contraceptive treatments (PZP) should have significantly reduced the growth-rate; but BLM ignored that effect.
Warm Springs HMA — 499,457 total acres, or 780 square miles
Low-AML = 96. This is the level down-to-which BLM manages the herd.
Stocking-density: 5,203 acres / Wild Horse — or 8 square miles / Wild Horse
Year Reported Growth Rate Contrasted with High-Norm of 2%
2010 362 November 2010 cull. PZP given
2011 111 N/A
2012 133 20% 10 times high-norm
2013 160 20% 10 times high-norm despite PZP
2014 192 20% 10 times high-norm
2015 368 92% 46 times high-norm
2016 442 20% 10 times high-norm
2017 586 33% 161/2 times high-norm
2018 739 26% 13 times high-norm
2018 a 886 20% 10 times high-norm
a = After the foaling season.
Note that the implausible growth rates compound, as each successive year is calculated per those that preceded it. It is according to these falsified growth rates that BLM claims an overpopulation, one that would appear to double every four years … or sooner (note the 92% increase that BLM reported in 2015). However, per the true normative growth rate of 2%, it would take 35 years for a herd to double. But then, there would be no “crisis,” would there? How would BLM justify its sinecures and paychecks at that rate? It couldn’t; so, it invents a problem to “solve” at great trouble and expense, to gain the administrative funds that accompany contracts for research and roundups.
But It Gets Worse
It would be bad-enough if BLM stopped at 20% which, again, is 10 times the high-norm. However, BLM often reports one-year growth-rates that far exceed 20%, as was evident above with regard to the Warm Springs herd. But it is important to understand that falsified herd-growth figures are not rare nor are they confined to Oregon (although Oregon is one of the worst offenders). BLM offices in other states also commit in this particular fraud.
Partial List of Biologically-Impossible Year-to-Year Herd-Growth Rates Found in BLM Reports
Name of the Herd State BLM-Reported Growth-Rate Contrast with 2% High-Norm
Mount Elinor UT 100% 50 times high-norm
South Steens OR 101% 50 times high-norm
Pokegama OR 102% 51 times high-norm
Palomino Butte OR 104% 52 times high-norm
Lost Creek WY 108% 54 times high-norm
Crooks Mountain WY 111% 56 times high-norm
Stewart Creek WY 111% 56 times high-norm
Triple B NV 122% 61 times high-norm
Seven MIle NV 127% 64 times high-norm
North Monitor NV 132% 66 times high-norm
Little Owyhee NV 142% 71 times high-norm
Little Colorado WY 149% 75 times high-norm
Gold Mountain NV 150% 75 times high-norm
Black Rock Range W. NV 158% 79 times high-norm
Diamond Hills North NV 159% 80 times high-norm
Chloride Canyon UT 161% 81 times high-norm
Goshute NV 164% 82 times high-norm
Diamond NV 168% 84 times high-norm
Stinking Water OR 170% 85 times high-norm
Paisley Desert OR 179% 90 times high-norm
Round Mtn CA 184% 92 times high-norm
North Hills UT 225% 113 times high-norm
Bible Springs UT 235% 118 times high-norm
Great Divide Basin WY 237% 119 times high-norm
Beatys Butte OR 256% 128 times high-norm
Choke Cherry UT 256% 128 times high-norm
Shawave Mountains NV 260% 130 times high-norm
Diamond Hlls South NV 293% 147 times high-norm
Jackies Butte OR 317% 159 times high-norm
Nut Mountain CA 417% 209 times high-norm
Black Rock Range E. NV 418% 209 times high-norm
Wheeler Pass NV 505% 253 times high-norm
Salt Wells Creek WY 522% 261 times high-norm
Carracas Mesa NM 525% 263 times high-norm
Fish Lake Valley NV 579% 290 times high-norm
Saylor Creek ID 600% 300 times high-norm
Montezuma NV 683% 342 times high-norm
Centennial CA 1218% 609 times high-norm
Carter CA 1257% 629 times high-norm
Silver Peak NV 2700% 1350 times high-norm
Fraud Is a Crime
BLM’s representations with regard to wild horses are false and misleading. Making false and misleading representations = fraud, which violates Title 18 USC 1001 of the Federal criminal code. Embezzlement and theft — expenditures of government funds for fraudulent reasons — violate various sections of Title 18 USC Chapter 31.
Mandate to Ensure the Quality, Objectivity, Utility, and Integrity of Information
BLM is bound by the Information Quality Act, better known as the Data Quality Act (DQA). FindLaw.com explains the Act thusly:
The Data Quality Act (DQA) is an attempt by Congress to ensure that federal agencies use and disseminate accurate information. The DQA requires federal agencies to issue information quality guidelines ensuring the quality, utility, objectivity and integrity of information that they disseminate and provide mechanisms for affected persons to correct such information. It is important for natural resources and environmental attorneys to be aware of this law in the event that a client has an interest in filing a petition with an agency to challenge the quality of information it has used or disseminated.
However, BLM’s data is corrupt — falsified in the agency’s self-interest and perpetuation, with an aim to secure the biggest budget that the false appearance of a wild-horse overpopulation can generate.
Code of Conduct
BLM must also adhere to the Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Code of Scientific and Scholarly Conduct, which applies to all staff members as well as to contractors, partners, permittees, and volunteers. The Code states:
Scholarly information considered in Departmental decision making must be robust, of the highest quality, and the result of as rigorous scientific and scholarly processes as can be achieved. Most importantly, it must be trustworthy.
However, BLM’s herd-growth figures with regard to the Warm Springs mustangs clearly violate the Code. The numbers have been ginned up way beyond the high-normative growth rate.
It Is Wrong to Reward Fraud
The proposed research is predicated on falsehoods: Overpopulation and a high reproductive rate. Government funds should not pay for fraud. Instead, if BLM finds itself with excess budget, that money should be redirected to improvements — such as placing guzzlers throughout the herd management areas and providing badly-needed shade and shelter for captured wild horses penned up in those feedlots that BLM euphemistically calls “off range pastures.”
Sterilized Mares Are Not Found in Nature
BLM always claims that its goal is to achieve and maintain a thriving, natural ecological balance. There is nothing natural about sterilization-surgery. Mares with ovariectomies are not found in Nature. Released back to the range, they will not contribute to a genetically-viable, self-sustaining herd. If BLM were to implement such surgeries, it would be substituting harmful, expensive, intrusive meddling in place of the minimum-feasible management-model specified by the Act. Moreover, having humans select which mares to sterilize would interfere with Natural Selection. Wild herds need to be molded by their environment, not by human manipulation.
Further, if the sterilized wild mares survived the surgeries and were released back to the range, their behavior would be abnormal. They would experience abrupt menopause. Herd-dynamics would become dysfunctional, creating chaos and causing suffering. It is abusive to visit such torment on innocent wild horses. BLM’s attempt to justify sicko experiments as “furthering knowledge” could not be further from the Truth. The “research” would be just another way for BLM to exploit the Warm Springs horses for the agency’s undeserved fiscal benefit.
Sterilizations Are Not Needed
Even if there were a completely-safe, humane way to sterilize wild horses, it would not be needed. In fact, sterilization is contraindicated because the wild herds are sparsely-populated, especially in Oregon. Most herds are not allowed to have enough members for them to reach minimum-viable population (MVP).
Freedom from Torture
The Wild and Free-Roaming Horses and Burros Act requires that these “living symbols of the historic and pioneer spirit of the West … shall be protected from capture, branding, harassment, or death ….” The planned experiments-in-question would include all such activities prohibited by the Act. There is an aspect of sadism to them — like, “let’s see how many mares we can kill with risky surgery, and then track any survivors to see how they behave once their ovaries have been removed.” Repulsive — that’s what your sicko “studies” are — Mengelian experimentation on defenseless animals. Unacceptable.
Please take my comments as feedback on how your project is perceived by American citizens, taxpayers, and voters. Although there are many reasons why your proposed twisted experiments are ill-advised, you already know they are wrong, don’t you? But grant-money has been secured through the “overpopulation” trickery, and you are taking advantage of it to squander our tax-dollars on bogus studies that will torture America’s wild horses. While the poor creatures targeted for these brutal experiments may be returned to the range, they will arrive back thorougly traumatized. There is no need for a study to determine that that is what will happen.
Herds Self-Regulate with Help from Nature’s Population-Control Agents: Predators
Wild-horse herds have been shown to self-regulate their numbers if left undisturbed by roundups and removals. Forage-availability serves as a feedback-loop to right-size a herd. Any “external” population-control must be by Nature’s means — predators. So, stop the exterminating (by Wildlife Services) and stop the hunting (by sportsmen) of predators within the HMAs. Without ample predators, you cannot achieve a natural ecological balance let alone a thriving one.
Thriving Natural Ecological Balance
BLM must stand down and get out of the way of Nature. That means no roundups, no birth control, no sterilization, no experimentation. Natural Selection must be allowed to mold the herds. Predators — especially apex predators such as mountain lions and wolves — must be reinstated and conserved as population-control agents. With time, a thriving natural ecological balance will, finally, be possible.
FONSI Prepared Before Comment Period
BDO included a Finding of No Significant Impact (FONSI) along with the EA, thus signaling that the proposed alternative was a fait accompli. This move reflects BDO’s contempt for the public-comment stage of the NEPA process. It announced to all concerned that it does not matter what the American People want — BLM has no use for Democracy, only Authoritarianism based on the Big Lie of “overpopulation.”
BLM Dismissed the Highly Controversial Nature of These Horrific Experiments
In the 2018 FONSI, BLM made the same false statement as in the 2016 edition, expressing militant disregard for how its cruel experiments have inflamed and antagonized the public:
Controversy in this context means disagreement about the nature of the effects, not expressions of opposition to the proposed action or preference among the alternatives.
That’s a lie. This EA — just like the one in 2016 — is highly controversial, and it has caused an uproar in the human environment. Truth be told, tens of thousands of American citizens, speaking for millions of others, are voicing absolute opposition to the proposed action. We demand that BLM renounce this EA and adopt the “No Action” alternative. This is not a matter of preference. It is our demand.
Surgery Is Needed … But Not on the Wild Horses
Corrective surgery is indeed necessary — to cut the blubber out of your budget and to excise the jobs of the irresponsible parties that hatched this malevolent scheme. Your evil project must be stopped, your funding reduced, and your budget-authority revoked. Those who dreamed up this nightmarish proposal as well as those who signed off on it should be fired. There are many unnecessary and redundant positions in the Wild Horse and Burro Program — positions that lack a purpose, positions that do not produce any real work. The excess of positions leads idle incumbents to invent crises to make it look like they are needed. They aren’t.
Reject Experimentation on America’s Wild Horses
The proposed experiments are antithetical to the spirit and intent of the Law. Responsible DOI, BLM, CSU, and USGS Administrators should withdraw from this ill-conceived project. Save the wild horses from cruel experimentation. Save taxpayers millions of dollars of specious “research.” The right choice is the “No Action” alternative.
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